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ON CONCILIATION

The terms of ‘conciliation’ visited upon and agreed to by bishops charged with what amounts to disloyalty to the Episcopal Church are now public. I don’t wish to enter into the conversation about whether the Seven should have agreed to this miserable document. They had no choice in the matter. Those who are now Ordinaries would have risked deposition if they had not signed, preluded by costly legal proceedings which their dioceses for the most part could not have afforded. Their conviction of that which is an ecclesiastical version of high treason would have left their dioceses vulnerable and leaderless.

My main discomfort is with the behavior of most of their episcopal colleagues, now assembled at Kanuga for a meeting of the House of Bishops, allegedly devoted to prayer and self-examination. Face it, these men and women represent all Episcopalians, the vast majority of whom haven’t shown any signs that they object to a use of power which is arbitrary, coercive, and ruthless.

This should not be a matter of who supports the schism which has occurred in Fort Worth, Quincy and elsewhere. Those who regard schism as unacceptable should be as disturbed by the treatment of the Seven Bishops, or is it nine, as those who think that schism was unavoidable. What did these naughty bishops do? They signed an ‘amicus’ brief to the courts in Texas and Illinois, challenging the view that General Convention owns all property within the United States occupied and utilized by communicants, even the disused outhouses in rural churches. The challenge isn’t that the dioceses of TEC have and share ownership with the parishes and missions within their territory, although such a view is modern. The challenge is that the General Convention is the ultimate owner of those outhouses and the buildings standing on the land administered by the parishes and missions. (Of course if General Convention owns these buildings is it not ultimately responsible for their upkeep?)

An ‘amicus’ brief is not a formal part of a court case. It merely informs the judge that there may be another opinion than that advanced by those seeking to claim ownership. Certainly in these cases there are other opinions, even if they are held by a minority, as the conciliation document states. TEC is now governed by a group, which was once a minority, and which used every tactic n the book to advance its views. But as the Presiding Bishop is wont to say, “The winners write history”.

Basically the ‘offending’ bishops are accused of making their views public.  It is suggested that when the national church authorities decide to take a course of action, our bishops must bow meekly and assent. The document even admits that General Convention hasn’t expressed it’s mind on the policy of challenging in the secular courts those who dissent and withdraw.

Anglicanism has always been an amazingly tolerant church. The sort of coercion now manifested hasn’t been seen since 1662. No thought has been given to the reputations and authority of bishops so humiliated within their own dioceses. And at Kanuga today, most of the bishops present pretend nothing has happened, greet the bishops now humiliated with a hug, and have nothing to say, or if they do it’s a squeeze of the shoulder and a muttered offer of sympathy.  And so TEC surrenders any claim to be a broad tolerant church, and bows the knee to the use of power and force. For sure the bishops and other church people who brought charges against the bishops, using the new, deeply flawed Title 4 disciplinary canons are culpable. Certainly the Presiding Bishop and her legal team continue to use methods which demonstrate little acquaintance with the Gospels. But on this day the major blame lies at the feet of usually good and kindly people who refuse to involve themselves, avert their eyes and walk by.

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